Tight First Varsity Races Highlight Inaugural Arlington Cup

Bishop O’Connell, Washington-Lee and Yorktown high schools raced Saturday in the first All-Arlington tri-meet. The crews were competing for the newly established Arlington Cup, which will be presented each year by the family of Tim Conroy, a recently deceased O'Connell coach, as a memorial to their son.

With great weather and flat water, there were many great races, but fittingly the top races were between the schools first 8s, on both the girls and boys sides.

Washington-Lee, coming off a silver medal performance at Nationals last year in the boys junior 8, has all nine members of that superb crew back this year. Probably the fastest W-L first varsity since 2007, this year's eight came to race, primed and ready. O'Connell, likely sporting its best boys varsity 8 ever, was equally eager to show its speed. The third contender, Yorktown, was determined to hold on against this tough field. 

The boys 1V race lived up to expectations, with all three crews overlapped for much of the first 1000 meters of the course. Yorktown came off the starting platform with a slight lead, but the smooth rowing W-L crew had taken it all back by the 750 meter mark under Key Bridge.  The lead crews battled through the middle 500 essentially even, with O'Connell fading a bit over the last half. At 500 to go, YHS had edged back into a very slight advantage of 1-2 seats over W-L. At about 300 meters to go YHS coxswain Calvin Pollard called for the pre-planned sprint sequence and his crew answered. The Patriot crew found a bit more over the last 30 strokes of the race, pushing its lead to 5-6 seats and finishing 2.8 seconds up on W-L and 10 seconds up on O’Connell. 

The girls 1V race was a dual match up between Yorktown and O'Connell, which had a terrific fall season, finishing 4th at the Head of the Occoquan. In this race, too, the crews were overlapped from start to finish. Both crews came off the start even, with Yorktown only pushing out into the lead in the middle 500 meters of the race. The Patriot women capitalized on their small advantage at 500 to go and pushed their margin out to 2.6 seconds at the finish—another barn-burner!

The first year's Arlington Cup 1V races had both been a classic battles of old rivals, side by side the whole way.  So close, that on another day, the results might have been different.  

Looking down the road to the Virginia state championships May 12, both the W-L and Yorktown boys crews should be in contention for medals. The last, and only time, both schools medaled in the boys 1V state championship race was in 2007, when Yorktown took silver behind the great TJ crew of that year and W-L out-raced McLean for bronze.

On the girls side the mountain may be higher as Madison, coming off a silver medal performance at the U.S. youth championships last June, seems a dominant force at the top of VASRA, with other fast crews from National Cathedral to Thomas Jefferson racing to keep up. However, it is still four weeks to the big show down at Occoquan and much can happen between now and then.

In the lower varsity races, Yorktown's crews dominated with both the boy's and girl's 2V and 3V eights winning by a length or more. Yorktown also won the girl's freshman 8 and 2nd 4.

W-L triumphed in the girls varsity 4, girls novice 8, boys freshman 8 (in a 1 second win over YHS) and novice 4.

O'Connell notched wins in the boys varsity 4 and novice 8 (with the biggest margin of the day).

The strength and speed shown by the freshman and novice crews at both W-L and O'Connell bode well for future Arlington Cup varsity match-ups.

Yorktown Coach Andy Bacas summed up the morning by saying, "The Arlington rowing community really came together in fine fashion today. The parents and coaches from all three schools helped set up a marked race course with a starting platform for the crews to race on, the volunteers ran the schedule right on time, the kids raced incredibly hard, Mother Nature gave us a great weather day and the families put out a fantastic spread of food and drink. We organized and ran this regatta essentially ourselves and it turned out to be a splendid event all-around. It was a great kick-off for what we hope will be a long tradition of match races between these schools. All of us who rowed for Charlie Butt at W-L know that he would have been very pleased with what happened today. He was the father of all Arlington high school rowing and he would have really enjoyed the close and competitive racing."